There are a few Never, Evers! in veterinary medicine. They are the secrets that every veterinarian knows because one of our clients has learned the lesson the hard way.
Like grandma used to say, "Never, Ever.. do this!"
Here is my list of things that no sensible veterinarian would ever do. I hope they help you and your pet avoid a potential trip to the vet.
This is Samantha. She is like many pets in that she licks her feet.
She licks her feet for two reasons;
1. She has allergies.
2. The allergies have led to secondary skin infection on her feet. The licking causes infection, and dogs make their sore feet feel better by licking them. This is a cyclical snowballing syndrome.
Her parents tried to discourage the foot licking by putting socks on her. But socks don't stay in place without help. So, they put a rubber band around the socks on her feet to keep them in place.
My Never Ever part of this story is, NEVER, EVER use a rubber band on a pet. In fact, I would even go so far as to say, if you have a pet in your house "don't have rubber bands in your home."
One of my worst rubber band story came from a cat who has an obsession with playing AND swallowing them. Two abdominal exploratory surgeries later, (to the tune of about $2500), and in all we have removed over 50 elastic bands from this "My Strange Addiction" feline edition episode.
My other "worst rubber band" story came when a cat was brought in for limping. Turns out the cat was frequently the Barbie doll replacement for the young daughter in the family. She routinely dressed up the cat, brushed her, and played house with the family cat. At some point she also tried to 'do her hair'. This included placing a rubber band on her leg. By the time I saw the leg it was swollen and the cat was unable to walk on it. It wasn't until we did surgery to amputate the leg that the rubber band was found acting as a tourniquet and cutting off the blood and nerve supply to the leg. Rubber bands have been found on tails, feet, legs, necks, and all with the same dire results.
In Samantha's case the sores from the rubber bands go all the way around her ankles and wrists. She may never grow hair back here. But, she walks normally, and it seems that no permanent damage to her feet or legs has occurred.
Samantha is a very loved dog. Her family didn't ever intend to hurt her. Accidents happen. It is our hope that her story will help others avoid the same situation.
If your dog is licking their feet excessively the answer lies in identifying and treating the underlying cause of the itch. This is almost always require a trip to the vet. There are some very good, very effective, and even much safer medications available these days. In cases where licking is severe and red, inflamed, smelly feet have resulted it is also important to get an antibiotic/antimycotic for the infection. If cost is a concern ask about over the counter options; Like foot soaks, topicals, or even over the counter antihistamines. As always, cheaper options are often available online, or at the local pharmacy.
It is also important to discuss prevention products like e-collars, booties, and pet shirts so pets cannot access the area that is bothering them. If you are considering stopping the licking by denying access to the area (with the use of an Elizabethan collar, booties, socks, muzzle, whatever) please remember that you are not helping your pet in an effective meaningful way. I see these as torture devices if used inappropriately, or incorrectly. How would you feel if you had poison ivy, allergies, an itch that was so compelling you couldn't stop itching it, and then someone put handcuffs on you? Don't put anything on your pet without asking your vet if it is ok to do so.
Stay tuned for more tips and Never, Evers!
If you have a story to share, or a pet mishap that you think others might benefit from please add it in the comment section below.
If you have a pet related question you can ask it for free at Pawbly.com. For more pet related information find me at my YouTube channel, my veterinary clinic's Jarrettsville Vet Facebook Page, or Twitter @FreePetAdvice.